Bookshelf | July / August 2014

A collection of reviewed books from the July / August 2014 print issue.


WHEN DEVELOPING LIFE-CHANGING inventions for base-of-the-pyramid consumers, innovators must consider the barriers that might prevent intended consumers from adopting the new products. These include transactional costs (such as lost wages if an individual must take a day to travel to a free clinic) and cultural norms (such as gender dynamics that keep women from participating in microloan programs). For instance, writes Soman in a chapter he contributed to the book, a no-frills air-conditioned train car launched by Indian Rail didn’t appeal to low-income customers because its name, Garib Rath, translated to Chariot of the Poor—and the poor aspire to join the middle class. The book, written by University of Toronto professors from a variety of disciplines, offers fascinating insights into its central premise: that innovating for the Global South requires "finding ways to bridge the gap between supply and demand so that simple fixes to simple problems are in fact adopted, used and sustained by those who could benefit from them." Dilip Soma, Janice Gross Stein, and Joseph Wong (University of Toronto Press, US$22.95 )


TODAY’S GLOBAL corporations are setting out on seven separate but deeply interconnected quests as they seek to create global presence, generate value, develop leaders, devise global solutions, maintain agility, co-innovate products, and promote sustainability. The authors, both of IMD, gather insights from many of their colleagues to prepare executives to embark on these journeys. Every page is packed with timely observations and brief anecdotes about companies that have struggled to carry out their own quests, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. Yet the payoff is worth it, they reason: "In the future, great changes to society will most probably be pioneered by corporations. They are not going to come about because of acts of genius alone, but because of incremental advances at epochal scale happening within companies all the time." N. Anand and Jean-Louis Barsoux (IMD, US$19.20 )


ANDREA JUNG’S tenure as CEO of Avon is the heart of this book, but Himsel uses the story of Jung’s rise and fall as a case study to explore universal themes of leadership. Himsel, a former Avon executive who now teaches at Thunderbird and Aalto University, describes how the confident and glamorous Jung revitalized an aging company. But as the company expanded globally, acquired other firms, and dealt with allegations of ethical violations, problems arose that were beyond Jung’s scope. "How can companies find their perfect leaders? And how can they make sure that this perfect leader remains well-suited to the top job as strategies, competitors, and other factors change?" Himsel asks. She considers the value of a strong COO, the importance of culture, and the effects of gender politics before looking at common traps that CEOs can fall into. The book is both a business biography and a collection of key leadership lessons. Deborrah Himsel (Palgrave MacMillan, US$26)


TO AVOID INVESTING money in making pieces that consumers might not want to buy, online furniture maker MyFab displayed a range of possible designs and asked customers to vote for their favorites; only the popular designs were manufactured. According to INSEAD professors Girotra and Netessine, this was a "business model innovation"—it reduced risk by changing the when of decision making. "Every business model, without exception, imposes a number of key decisions on the business," they write. Business leaders might achieve greater efficiencies in their business models if they change any of the four W’s: what their objectives are, when they must make decisions, who should make the decisions, and why. Girotra and Netessine examine business model innovations (BMIs) delivered by companies from Blockbuster to Zipcar and point out a surprising discovery: BMIs might not be as flashy as new product introductions, but they can give companies an even greater competitive advantage—at a much lower cost. Karan Girotra and Serguei Netessine (Harvard Business Review Press, US$30)


"ENTREPRENEURS, not ideas, lead their enterprises to success," writes Lidow, who teaches entrepreneurial leadership at Princeton. The bad news is that most entrepreneurs don’t have the leadership skills to take their enterprises through all the four stages of entrepreneurship. The good news is that Lidow believes anyone can develop the five tools that entrepreneurial leaders require: They must be self-aware, adept at understanding how the enterprise works, and able to build relationships, motivate others, and lead change. Leaders will fail unless they understand their strengths and weaknesses—and the motivations that drive them. "Your strongest motivations arise from the things that are the source of your happiness or that protect you from your primal fears," he writes. Part therapy session and part business class, the book takes a uniquely personal look at the entrepreneur’s journey. Derek Lidow (Jossey-Bass, US$27.95 )